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Monday, January 29, 2007

Lighting The Way

Understand the fundamentals of flash to make the best purchasing decision

The Fill-Flash Difference
We know instinctively to turn on the flash at night, but we may not consider its use under bright, sunny conditions. Flash in daylight can improve the quality of a photograph by reducing contrast and bringing out details and color.

Don't worry about overwhelming a subject with flash because it's significantly less powerful than the dominant light source, the sun. By choosing a TTL-compatible flash, the camera calculates and adjusts ambient exposure and the output of the flash to achieve a balanced fill-flash photograph.

In a portrait of a person wearing a wide-brimmed hat at noon, for example, harsh shadows appear beneath the hat, obscuring facial details. By using a flash, light reveals color and the details of a subject's face. Even a backlit scene that typically results in a silhouette is enhanced to reveal subject details by turning on the flash.

Flash-Exposure Compensation
While the automatic capabilities of today's cameras deliver excellent results, we may prefer a specific look in an image. This is achieved by using the flash-exposure compensation tool, which can be found built in to the camera or on the flash. It allows you to increase output by up to one full stop or reduce it by as much as three stops in increments of one-third.

This ability allows you to reduce the flash output and make the result appear more subtle. If shooting portraits, you might increase it slightly to reduce the appearance of distracting blemishes.

Bounce And Off-Camera Flash

The look of straight-on flash can appear flat and harsh, which is why many photographers often choose to bounce the flash or diffuse it through an umbrella. Both techniques soften the light by spreading the illumination over a wider area. Although reducing the effective range of the flash, the difference in the quality of the light often is more appealing for many subjects, particularly people.

Bouncing is done by rotating or tilting the flash head toward a white surface, such as a wall or reflector. It's important to make sure that the surface has no color cast, as that color will impact your final image. A unique feature is included with the Metz 54 MZ-4 flash; a secondary flash in its body provides fill light when the main head is bounced.


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